Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Government by Dirty Tricks
August 22, 2005
George W. Bush is the kind of guy you remember if you happen to cross his path -- at least his economics professor at Harvard Business School thinks so. Bush, you will recall, was at Harvard immediately after he left the Alabama National Guard -- if he was ever there to begin with. He openly boasted to Tsurumi about using pull to get into a champagne unit, and Tsurumi was shocked. Most people wouldn’t do that, especially back then.
Tsurumi has an even lower opinion of George Bush than Bush’s commander in the Texas Air National Guard, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, did:
He showed pathological lying habits and was in denial when challenged on his prejudices and biases. He would even deny saying something he just said 30 seconds ago. He was famous for that. . . .
Students who challenged and embarrassed Bush in class would then become the subject of a whispering campaign by him, Tsurumi said. “In class, he couldn’t challenge them. But after class, he sometimes came up to me in the hallway and started bad-mouthing those students who had challenged him. He would complain that someone was drinking too much. It was innuendo and lies. So that’s how I knew, behind his smile and his smirk, that he was a very insecure, cunning and vengeful guy.
This past week when George W. Bush stood on the lawn of his ranch in Crawford, he declared that he supported Cindy Sheehan’s constitutional right to her strong opinion against the war in Iraq. This is America, he said. And the minute he was on the record as backing her First Amendment rights, the attack dogs went off the leash.
That’s the kind of government we have now. It’s run by people who have the mentality of 13-year-olds who repeat everything you say. Everything is carried out in the spirit of a very nasty practical joke whose very stupidity is a tremendous insult. Unfortunately, these puerile tactics do accomplish their purpose: they make us disengage.
This technique, refined, rehearsed, backed by bottomless resources, has had just that effect on the portion of the American public that might actually resist the fascist takeover we are witnessing. Many people who are on our side still cannot get past a certain level of spin without disengaging. Our retreat is a victory for Karl Rove, every single time; he just keeps racking them up.
It is this spotless record of retribution, in large part, that keeps the press in line.
And are they ever in line. Richard Cohen, a columnist with the Washington Post feels that Karl Rove’s outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame “is not a major story. It’s a crappy little crime and it may not be a crime at all.”
Jim VandeHei, a staff writer at the Post, is perhaps even more aggressively pro-administration. When asked in an online chat why reporters even bother to question Scott McClellan, given the hit to his reputation after the dramatic revelation that Karl Rove had indeed leaked Valerie Plame’s name. Said VandeHei, “Scott has a lot of credibility with reporters. He is seen as someone who might not tell you a lot, but is not going to tell you a lie.”
Could it be that VandeHei and others in the corporate media identify with McClellan’s lack of credibility?
The Post was, of course, aggressively pro-war before we went into Iraq, but they are not alone in conferring legitimacy and respect on this rogue government. The mainstream media in general rigidly enforce respect for an administration whose anti-democratic actions are beyond the pale. For example, Michael Goodwin, a columnist and former editorial page editor of the New York Daily News, a journalist who has won a Pulitzer, worked at the New York Times, and taught at Columbia University School of Journalism, has actually recently criticized the White House press corps for being too rough on Scott McClellan.
The intense grilling that White House reporters inflicted on presidential spokesman Scott McClellan Monday over whether political guru Karl Rove leaked the name of a CIA operative was no ordinary give-and-take. It was a hostile hectoring that revealed much of the mainstream press for what it has become: the opposition party. . . .
That the mainstream media are basically liberals with press passes has been documented by virtually every study that measures reporters’ political identification and issue positions. But bias has now stepped over into blatant opposition, a stance the media will regret. Instead of providing unvarnished facts obtained by aggressive but fair reporting, the media will be reduced to providing comfort food to ideological comrades.
It’s hard to see what ideology has to do with a story about a White House -- a Republican White House! -- that leaks information endangering our national security for political purposes during what they like to call wartime. Without offering a single specific example of an out of bounds question, a distinguished senior journalist is reminding journalists -- in particular the young reporters who are being socialized into journalistic ethics and standards -- of professional ground rules with respect to the corporate Bush administration. Dan Rather is another sort of reminder.
Rather came back into the news when Rush Limbaugh said in his broadcast of August 15:
I mean Cindy Sheehan is just Bill Burkett. Her story is nothing more than forged documents. There’s nothing about it that’s real, including the mainstream media’s glomming onto it. It’s not real. It’s nothing more than an attempt. It’s the latest effort made by the coordinated left.
Huh? What do forged documents have to do with Cindy Sheehan? And how many of you have Bill Burkett’s name at your fingertips? Apparently Rush Limbaugh’s listeners do. Burkett is the former National Guardsman and outspoken critic of Junior Bush who slipped CBS the “forged” documents concerning Bush’s extremely cavalier National Guard service. The fact that Limbaugh assumes his listeners know who Burkett is demonstrates just how crucially important Rather’s disgrace was for the right.
Bill Burkett is also the guy who was telling the world that if anyone else had done what Bush did back then, failing to take an annual physical, leaving with permission, unilaterally terminating active duty, they would’ve been shipped straight to the front lines in Vietnam. The charge of forgery disgraced Burkett and shut him up just as much as it did Rather, and discredited his other, more essential claim: that Bush is a liar and a coward. It allowed just the kind of nick-of-time change of subject that Karl Rove is famous for, while fortuitously reinforcing their bogus grievances against the liberal media and their reputation for swift, deep retribution. James Moore, co-author of Bush’s Brain:
Frankly, from now on, I think in any political campaign for some time to come, when documents surface, people are immediately going to say, “Oh, it’s not one of those National Guard things, is it?” Because Bill Burkett has been discredited and his story has now been discredited. If this were a political tactic or strategy employed by Rove or by Republican operatives, it’s worked quite well.
. . . people have often said of me, and any number of other people who watched Karl Rove for years, that we give him credit for more than he deserves; but I, like any other political reporter who’s been around for twenty or thirty years, knows talent when they see it. I have watched Rove closely for over twenty years, almost twenty-five years. And he’s the best there is. He’s the best there ever has been at political skullduggery . . .
I mean, just imagine if, at this moment, the President were being called something worse than chickenhawk by all those liberals in the fourth estate. Gold Star mom down there at the gate. Other moms coming. Wouldn’t want to be called a deserter.
Almost no media attention has been given to the fact that the mea-culpa commission appointed by Viacom to look into the authenticity of the disputed documents, headed by Bush family friend and former attorney general Dick Thornburgh, could not determine that they were forgeries.
Some in the media are disparaging Cindy Sheehan’s breakthrough into national consciousness as the liberal counterpart of the Terri Schiavo media circus, but the true comparison is with Valeria Plame. Both Sheehan and Plame are proving hard to spin, because they are private citizens who have been wronged but are nevertheless being subjected to the same merciless, lying smear campaigns we accept as normal when used against other politicians.
If the outing of Plame for political purposes was, as Cohen said, just a crappy little crime -- if it was a crime -- then what would you call the outing of the ONLY al Qaeda double agent we have ever had? Although it received almost no press, last year shortly after the Democratic National Convention, the Bushitters leaked the name of Naeem Noor Kahn -- on background, Condi explained; is she really that dumb?—because Bush needed to show some results on terror in order to contain Kerry’s bounce.
At the time his cover was blown, Noor Khan had been turned and was working with the Pakistani intelligence service and the CIA. He had contacts in al Qaeda cells in London. Had Noor Khan stayed in place we would have had a fighting chance to prevent the London bombings. The sheer indifference of the act, the throwing away of such a literally priceless asset, is breathtaking. Predictably, there has been almost no media coverage of this outing -- either at the time in 2004, or now, when it is again relevant because of the recent bombings in London.
Given this administration’s proven vindictiveness toward anyone who challenges its rigid agenda, it may be that we’re lucky that Cindy Sheehan has been called away. This is an opportunity for others to step into her spotlight and demand that we be seen as a movement -- quick before the media shuts the lights off.
This IS a movement.
Patricia Goldsmith is a member of Long Island Media Watch, a grassroots free media and democracy watchdog group. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.